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New unemployment benefits law already needs a makeover

RALEIGH (AP) — North Carolina lawmakers plan to make some changes in a new law that cuts unemployment benefits after the U.S. Labor Department pointed out some parts of the law that do not comply with federal regulations.

Gay Gilbert with the federal Office of Unemployment Insurance has told state lawmakers they cannot deny benefits to certain classifications of those who have lost their jobs.

But Gilbert says the state can reduce maximum benefits from $535 per week to $350 weekly. He also says the state can reduce the maximum number of weeks of benefits from 26 weeks to 20 weeks.

North Carolina Commerce Department spokesman Josh Ellis says the required changes will have little to do with who qualifies for benefits.

Gov. Pat McCrory can temporarily set aside unemployment insurance rules that do not comply with federal standards until the legislature can fix them. Lawmakers can make the adjustments needed before they adjourn their legislative session this month.

Davie Rep. Julia Howard says she’s pleased that so few changes will be required.

Mecklenburg Sen. Bob Rucho said he had not seen the U.S. Labor Department letter. But Rucho said state lawmakers shared copies of their proposed law with the federal agency in December, before the legislative session began.

“Those folks had a chance to review all of that, and we never got comments back on it. They never once complained,” Rucho said.

North Carolina’s new law took effect July 1.

The most immediate impact of the new law was that about 70,000 people on long-term federally funded unemployment benefits lost their support payments.


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